The offices of the city of Peoria, Arizona (pop. 154,000), may be closed on Fridays, but the efforts the city has put into e-participation make both information and participation effortless for residents regardless of the day. The city's website provides a wealth of information for residents, businesses, and visitors—covering everything from how to set up water, sewer, and garbage service for residents to economic development and site selection for businesses. Visitors can find out about all sorts of activities so they can plan a vacation accordingly.
- Utility bill payments
- Recreation programs signup
- Library catalog
- Utilities account management
- Business license applications
- Sales tax account management
- Sewer fee appeal forms
- Street repair requests
- Employment opportunities
- Graffiti reporting
- E-billing information.
In addition to an easy-to-use website, the city has conducted online discussion forums about important issues and plans to continue to do so. The public has been engaged online in the budget process and can view hearings and meetings online as well. Community members can also post comments online.
"It is important to us as a city that we provide the resources and technology for our community members to be engaged if they wish," said Carl Swenson, Peoria city manager. "I like to believe that an engaged community is an active community, and that is what helps our city grow and be a great city to live in."
The primary reason that Peoria has invested in these initiatives is because “it’s the right thing to do,” said Swenson. Interestingly, there has been no grassroots demand for e-participation and no demand by citizens in general, but because neighboring local governments and others are offering e-participation, the officials wanted to keep pace.
The public information office has principal responsibility for e-participation projects, and the local government takes very seriously the results of these projects in decision making.
"If someone is taking the time to comment or suggest something online, you get the feeling there are many more with the same concerns. It is our job, because we work for the citizens, to see if they have merit," added Swenson.
Although most of the e-participation projects have been developed by in-house staff, the city has also purchased programs from vendors and has outsourced to an application service provider.
As a result of e-participation, the city has not experienced any increase in workload or time demands on technology personnel, but the quantity and quality of information available to local officials for decision making has increased, and the quality of citizen participation has increased. All of this has resulted in better decision making by local officials and increased citizen trust in government. The city reports that the relationship between citizens and elected and appointed officials has improved as a result of e-participation, and both actively promote e-participation.
The city of Peoria was selected based on its response to the E-Participation/E-Democracy survey.